Brick Alley Pub is along the main drag of downtown Newport, Rhode Island — 140 Thames Street. It’s something of an institution in Newport as it’s been around since before the internet and cell phones (mid-1980s). Many people go there for the drinks — which are aplenty — and spacious bar atmosphere.
I don’t go there for the food, which is mediocre to satisfying and far from healthy. Nearly everything is drowned in butter, cheese, or both, and they manage to make even the most savory of dishes, sweet (for example, they offer a side dish of roasted beets and butternut squash that tastes more like a black forest chocolate cake than earthy root vegetables). Please don’t take this as a criticism — many people enjoy this kind of dining and when you’re on vacation, who cares about a few extra calories in the name of pleasing your palate? On the bright side, what is lacking in the main dishes is made up in above-average appetizers and a generous salad bar (that comes with all “full meals”) — so fill up on your first two courses.
Amidst the rather pedestrian pub grub is a delicious irony: perhaps the best wine list in Newport. You’d never guess that the owner of Brick Alley was a wine connoisseur, based on the multitude of cocktail concoctions, craft beers on tap, and variations on sangria that are heavily promoted in the drinks menu. But one look at the “regular” wine list (yes, there’s also a formidable “reserve” list) and it’s easy to figure out that someone in charge likes — and knows — wine. One tip-off: verticals of Joseph Phelps “Insignia” (again, on the “regular” list). More appealing than the outstanding wines offered are the bottle prices, which at their highest remarkably fair, and at the lowest, absolute steals. For example, I drained a bottle of 2002 B.V. Tapestry for the mere pittance of $39. Yes, that was for a 750ml bottle. No, that’s not a typo — less than forty bucks for a 14-year-old Napa beast.
That’s just a sampling of the wine deals you’ll find at Brick Alley. And if you’re more into bourbon, you’ll be happy to know this is one of the few restaurants on Earth that offers the full lineup of Pappy Van Winkle — 10-, 12-, 15-, 20-, and 23-year versions — at affordable prices (most under $20 for a shot).
A big part of enjoying an eatery is managing expectations. If you choose to go to Brick Alley Pub, make sure you go there for the apps, salad bar, and drinks — you won’t be disappointed.